By Barb McKay


A new National Housing Strategy unveiled last week appears to be in line with Bruce County’s vision to end homelessness, but if it will ultimately help the county achieve its goals is still unknown, according to local housing officials.


The strategy builds upon the federal government’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update released last year and its Fair Housing Plan introduced this past spring. The 10-year, $40 billion housing strategy aims to reduce homelessness and increase the availability of affordable housing across Canada.


Bruce County has a long-term housing strategy that was developed in 2013 after extensive consultations with local Indigenous communities, individuals living with disabilities, community agencies and county staff. The plan identifies housing issues in Bruce County, which include a high senior population, a lack of housing diversity and limited employment opportunities, and established housing targets to meet by 2023.


The new National Housing Strategy is a first for Canada and aims to significantly increase the supply of affordable housing that is also energy efficient and meets accessibility standards. The plan includes a new national strategy co-investment fund of $15.9 billion, $8.6 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative that will be carried out in partnership with provinces and territories, a $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit in 2020, $2.2 billion for initiatives to reduce homelessness, as well as funding to address housing issues in northern Canada.


Christine MacDonald, Director of Social Services and Housing for the County of Bruce, said it is still too early to know if or how the county will benefit from the National Housing Strategy. Unlike other provinces, she said, in Ontario the responsibility of funding and administering social housing programs is downloaded to lower tier governments.


“Bruce County is responsible for managing housing and homelessness in our communities,” MacDonald said.


The county administers a number of housing programs that assist residents including a home ownership program, home repair program, low income energy assistance program, rent supplement and tenant support.


MacDonald said upon initial review of the strategy it appears to align with the principles established in Bruce County’s long-term housing strategy. Those principles include providing services that are people-focused, collaborating with community partners, maximizing existing housing and community resources, find solutions that are fiscally responsible and efficient and provide services that are flexible, realistic and innovative.


“In principle, the ideas they (federal government) are looking at support the principles in our long-term housing strategy,” she said. “We are interested and curious to see how this plays out.”


MacDonald said as more information becomes available in regards to the strategy her department will review it and report to Bruce County council. She noted that the county plans to do a count around homelessness in Bruce County in 2018 will be consulting with communities once that is completed.